New York's Cooperative and Condominium Community
Energy efficiency is no longer just for co-ops and condos with deep pockets. Green building technology startup BlocPower has raised nearly $25 million in equity funding and $130 million in debt financing to retrofit tens of thousands of apartments and other dwellings with climate-friendly appliances. This is good news to co-op and condo boards that are struggling to reduce their buildings' carbon emissions before fines kick in next year under the Climate Mobilization Act's Local Law 97.
Donnel Baird, BlocPower’s founder and chief executive, tells Crain's the money will allow the Brooklyn-based company to expand the reach of its software platform, BlocMaps, which identifies buildings in need of retrofits and recommends the best technologies to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Once retrofits have been identified, BlocPower coordinates and finances the replacement of fossil fuel boilers, furnaces and water heaters with high-efficiency electric devices in multi-family dwellings and other buildings. It also manages the installation of solar panels.
The funding comes as the federal Inflation Reduction Act takes effect, providing billions of dollars for low- and moderate-income families to replace fossil fuel furnaces and water heaters. BlocPower says it collects any available rebates for electrification and passes the savings on to a building’s owner. The IRA is “just a massive once-in-a lifetime, generationally transformational moment,” says Baird, whose company focuses on retrofits in low-income communities. “This is our shot, not only on climate change, but also for those of us who care about wealth inequality, who care about racial equality.”
The burning of fossil fuels in buildings accounted for 13% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, according to the federal Environmental Protection Agency. In New York City, the number is a staggering 65%.
BlocPower is also tackling another obstacle to electrification: a shortage of workers to retrofit buildings. The company will devote part of the new funding to expand its Civilian Climate Corps program, which trains residents of communities at high risk of gun violence to install heat pumps, solar panels and other hardware.
“We need more contractors, and those contractors need more skilled technicians,” Baird says. “We just have a massive generational shortage of labor in America.”
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